With the New Year approaching, speedonthewater.com is taking the month of December to interview various individuals in the powerboat community to get their feedback on what's to come for the performance boat market. Click on the names below to jump to the corresponding interviews.
Scott Sjogren • Marc Granet • Marc Jacob • David Holley • Johnny Walker • Terry Sobo • Mike Livorsi
Tim Gallagher • Peter Hledin • Ed Champion • Steve Curtis • Todd Goodwin • Tres Martin • Brett Anderson
Stu Jones • Brett Manire • Wayne Schaldenbrand • Skip Braver • Scott Porter • Joe LoGiudice
Erik Christiansen • Dave Hemmingson
Scott Sjogren, the owner of Pier 57 Marine in Gurnee, Ill., is bullish on the future of luxury performance center consoles and high-performance catamarans. And for speedonthewater.com readers who've followed his collaboration with Mystic Powerboats and the DeLand, Fla., custom go-fast boat company's upcoming 39-foot center console and 44-foot catamaran (read the latest story), that will come as no surprise.
Here's what Sjogren had to say when asked what he sees coming for the performance-boat market in the new year.
"I think the performance center console segment of the market will continue to grow. That market is getting bigger, but it's still very, very small. I think people are looking at luxury center consoles for a few reasons. First, in most cases they hold their value better than traditional performance boats. Two, most of the outboard engines that power them come with five-year warranties and run on 89-octane fuel. Three, you can take a lot of people on them and they're getting pretty fast. I've always said that if you're born with the water gene, you're not going to stop boating. But you may change the way you go boating, and that's happening in the performance boat market. And that's why we're seeing growth on the center console side.
Scott Sjogren (center) and friends: "As an industry, we need to work together to bring younger people into the marketplace."
"Traditional 'new' performance V-bottoms, I think, will continue to struggle, because the people spending money on new go-fast boats today have already owned V-bottoms. It's still a pretty small group of buyers, and now they want the benefits of owning a cat. Look around the industry. How many V-bottom builders have gone out of business or are struggling? Now look at the catamaran builders. The premium brands are still building and selling boats. And when I talk about performance V-bottoms and cats, I'm talking about boats 38 feet and longer. As I said, the customers who have already owned V-bottoms are now moving onto cats, and there is not enough new blood coming into the market to replace them.
"At the dealer level, the biggest challenge we're continuing to face is getting and finding good, clean pre-owned inventory. If you were buying a sportscar today, a 2008 Corvette would not be considered a 'late model.' But in the performance boat market, a 2008 model is considered a late model—it's a relatively 'new' used boat. The warranty on that boat expired in 2009—six years ago. Unfortunately, one of the biggest expenses we have as a dealer is the money we have to put into used boats to sell them. It's in the thousands of dollars for each boat because we hold ourselves—and are held—to a very high standard in terms of what we deliver in a used boat.
"As an industry, we need to work together to bring younger people into the marketplace. Just look at the demographics of consumers in our industry. They're not getting any younger. I also think there's an opportunity for event organizers with the performance center console market. It's getting big enough now where someone could put on a center console-only poker run or regatta—there are enough of them out there now. It would be a good way of getting together people who have similar interests."
Defending a world title—any world title—is tough. But that's exactly what the Miss GEICO Offshore Racing team did last month in Key West, Fla., at the 2014 Super Boat International Offshore World Championships. Against not one but two wickedly fast and talent-loaded teams from the CMS/Marine Technology Inc., camp—with Bob Bull and Randy Scism in one MTI catamaran and John Tomlinson and Jeff Harris in another— as well as six other Unlimited-class cats, throttleman Scott Begovich, driver Marc Granet, crew chief Gary Stray and the rest of the GEICO team left Key West for the second year in a row with a world championship title.
Marc Granet: "In my opinion, creating a 'secondary season' within the class is not the answer—it just creates more division within the class." Photo courtesy/copyright Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
More than the team's driver, Granet tends to be its spokesman—a role for which his outgoing personality and thick skin make him ideally suited—so we asked him to peer into his crystal ball for the upcoming offshore racing season and asked him one question.
What do you see happening in the offshore racing world next year?
"Well, if you believe in the capitalist system—and I do believe in that system—then you believe that competition breeds a better product. I am hoping that offshore racing, through competition (among racing organizations) becomes a better product for the fans and the racers. Take away the egos of the racers, and I think that any organization can benefit from professionalism, increased marketing and exposure and refining the product. As racers, we all agree that we have an exciting product. Now, the people who know what they're doing need to build something that benefits the racers and the fans in a way that help the racers build and maintain sponsorships.
"This past year was a roller-coaster ride for the our class. We went from four boats to two boats to nine boats in the class at the Key West Worlds. If I'm not mistaken, there were more Unlimited-class cats than Superboat-class cats at the Worlds. To that end, if we know the boats are out there, the due diligence needs to be done on ways to keep them out there for the entire season. In my opinion, creating a 'secondary season' within the class is not the answer—it just creates more division within the class. The class should be structured in such a way that the teams can afford to run those six or seven races during the season competitively.
"Overall, I think we'll see more boats out there racing offshore next year, and I believe the Unlimited class will retain some of the size it showed at the Worlds. I am cautiously optimistic for the 2015 season."
In August it was reported that performance boat enthusiast Mark Fischer, who owns OffLeaseOnly.com and BoatsDirectUSA.com, was behind the acquisition of the Deep Impact Boat assets (read the story). Besides relocating the tooling and addressing some necessary changes/improvements to the line of 33- to 39-foot center consoles, Fischer's impact on the brand won't be noticeable to the public until the Miami International Boat Show in February.
Two new Deep Impact models will be showcased at the 2015 Miami International Boat Show.
One thing Fischer did not long after the acquisition was hire Marc Jacob as sales manager for the expanding business. So, to answer the "what do you see coming for the performance boat market in the new year" question, we turned to Jacob, who is excited about the reinvented Deep Impact line as well as the center console market overall.
"Naturally we are excited in the direction the boating industry is going," said Jacob, who is headed to St. Petersburg, Fla., today for the 37th annual St. Petersburg Power & Sailboat Show that runs from Thursday through Sunday (Dec. 4-7). "Since owners Mark and Eileen Fischer purchased the Deep Impact brand several months ago we've been working hard to change the way the finished product presents itself. The center consoles are one of the nicest-riding boats in our industry and we are fortunate to now have Eugene Uriarte (Black Water Boats founder/designer) and his team building the exclusive models.
"The flagship 399 Poker Run Edition from Deep Impact has captured a portion of the go-fast guys because they can run 70-plus mph with 10 to 12 friends aboard and still have plenty of room to move around when rafted off," he continued. "At any given time you'll find as many as 20 or so friends taking in the fun and sun aboard one of our boats. Because of that, we're noticing more buyers leaning toward the center consoles."
Jacob, who wished all powerboaters a safe and fun 2015 boating season, said BoatsDirectUSA.com is proud to have the diversity of being the exclusive dealer for the Black Water and Ocean Hawk lineups as well.
"Along with the performance, our boats offer luxury and style to give our discriminating clients the best of both worlds in a center console," Jacob said. "You can see it in our retro-look Ocean Hawk 33, which is a reborn boat of legendary proportion with its conventional running surface that crushes big water and provides a stable, predictable ride, and in our Black Water 36 Sport, a new take on the 36 Sport Fish that was a big hit when we introduced it at the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show."
As the chief executive officer of international yacht and powerboat shipping logistics leader Peters & May, David Holley is a true globetrotter. Your chances of reaching him in the Pacific Northwest or Middle East are about as good as they are getting in touch with him in his office in Southampton, England. For business as well as marketing purposes, Peters & May has been deeply involved powerboat racing, especially Unlimited hydroplanes, during much of Holley's tenure with the company. He's become a keen observer of the sport. But beyond that, he's a seriously well-informed observer on the international and domestic powerboat markets.
What do you see happening in the recreational powerboat and racing worlds in 2015?
Peters & May CEO David Holley (right with Scott Raney, crew chief of the U-11 Peters & May hydroplane team) is always thinking—and he never takes himself too seriously.
"This has been a very solid year for our business, and with the majority of the boat manufacturing markets forecasting positive figures we are confident that 2015 will follow suit. The performance boat market has evolved and as a result we are seeing more companies approaching us to assist with exporting their product around the globe. The growing performance center console market is a good example of what can happen when a number of manufacturers target a growing niche that attracts customers from within and outside the United States.
"Whether it is a 23-foot ski boat, a 60-foot cruiser or a 200-foot superyacht, 95 percent of our business is in transporting boats and yachts for the luxury market. The Northern European small boat market is still struggling and exports from the U.S. to that region are significantly down. However, exports to regions such as the Middle East, South America and the Far East are on the rise. So far this year we have exported more than 3,000 boats to and from global destinations. Of those, 14 have been yachts more than 150 feet in length.
"On the Peters & May Racing side we continue to support race teams and racers all over the globe. Our sponsorship program remains strong and we are seeing more and more race teams calling on us to handle their logistical requirements. I am personally excited to see what happens within the H1 Unlimited organization now that Steve David is at the helm and also on the offshore scene as OPGP steps up to put on its show. I believe 2015 will be an exciting year for powerboat racing at all levels, and as a fan I can't wait for the season to start."
Despite that Baja Marine's business has reportedly doubled in the past 12 months, Johnny Walker, the chief executive officer of the Washington, N.C., powerboat company isn't overly exuberant about the upturn. First, those sales are spread over four brands—Baja, Donzi, Fountain and Pro-Line—with the latter, a true center console fishing and work boat, carrying most of the business. Don't misunderstand, Walker is pleased with the company's progress. He's just careful to keep it all in perspective.
Walker believes the 35 Outlaw will continue as the strongest seller in the Baja line next year.
What do you see happening for the Baja, Fountain and Donzi brands in 2015?
"I see them continuing to improve for another 12 months or more. Some of it has to do with us increasing our marketshare, and some of it has to do with improvement in the marketplace. I guess the difference between us and most people you're talking to is we were in start-up mode, but a start-up mode with name brands. I can say that brand sales are up 100 percent over last year. I can also say that the bar wasn't very high. But this past year has gotten us past the hurdle of, 'I didn't know you guys were still in business.'
"It really is a marketshare thing. I think sportboat sales in the Donzi and Fountain lines will continue to be sluggish, the push in those brands will continue to come from center consoles, same as last year. On the Baja side, we do more 35s than anything else. Compared to anything in the size range for sportboats, it has to do with price point. You can to 70 mph in 35 Outlaw and not have to spend $400,000 to $500,000. When you look at anything else in the 35-foot sportboat range, nobody else is selling one for $200,000. As for the Donzi Classic series, I think it will continue to supplement the Baja line, just as intended."
Longtime sales and marketing director for Nor-Tech Hi-Performance Boats Terry Sobo doesn't need a crystal ball to see what lies ahead in 2015 for the Fort Myers, Fla., company. It's going to be busy as 2015 production is sold out for all Nor-Tech models.
Thanks to a steady stream of center consoles, Nor-Tech's 2015 production is completely sold out.
Sobo acknowledged that most of that production is taken up by the company's popular center console lineup, so it's not hard to guess what his prediction is for the performance boat market in the new year.
"In a nutshell, the forecast for 2015 is that there doesn't seem to be any slowdown in sight as far as center consoles go—more and more people are embracing them, and a majority of those people aren't interested in them for fishing purposes," Sobo said. "The center consoles are definitely the trend and the demand is for larger, more elaborate, more powerful models with even more features. The luxury stuff is where it's at, that's for sure.
"On the high-performance side of things, we've got a smattering of boats in the works but it's all big stuff," he continued. "We've got some 50-plus-foot cats and V-bottoms coming, all with Mercury Racing 1100s or 1350s. Mercury truly raised the bar with those engines. Besides diesel applications, they're the only engines we're putting in boats at the moment."
When it comes to understanding what's on the horizon for the performance boat industry, it's tough to beat the point of view of Mike Livorsi, the founder of Livorsi Marine. You see, the Grayslake, Ill., company supplies much of the accessories found in many of today's performance boats. Like many of the people who have already responded to our latest feature, Livorsi says the center console market is red hot.
Over the past several years, Livorsi Marine's business has rapidly expanded into the center console market.
Here's what he had to say when asked what he sees coming for the performance-boat market in the new year.
Outboard motors, or what I like to call "clamp-ons," are a recent engineering marvel. With the engines reaching almost 400 hp, the market for center consoles continues to grow. I categorize the center consoles into four markets—performance, fishing, cruisers and runabouts from 20 to 50 feet. One to five clamp-ons can be offered, depending on desired speed or the size of boat. The more clamp-ons, the higher the speed. Additionally, outboard motors cost less, are more fuel-efficient, generally require less maintenance and offer longer warranties. They bring the amenities of large cruisers along with seating for as many as a dozen or more people comfortably. Best of all, they maintain their value even if exposed to saltwater environments.
The bad news is the performance boat market is declining. The good: many customers seek a day on the water of maintenance-free boating and are switching to the performance center console. A new market brings new products for center consoles. Ten years ago, the performance boating market occupied most of Livorsi's business. However, continued expansion is necessary in such a competitive industry. Today, Livorsi caters to not only performance boats but also to center consoles, workboats, military/government boats, cruisers and ski boats. We invest resources into developing new products such as trim tabs, electronic throttles, LED position indicators and Can Bus gauges to benefit the end users and retail customers in the marketplace.
In response to speedonthewater.com's question about what he envisions for 2015 in the performance boat world, Tim Gallagher, sales and marketing manager for Marine Technology Inc., sent an e-mail pointing first to the immediate future and the company's most important event of the year—the Miami International Boat Show.
Gallagher didn't stop there, he addressed large catamaran sales and doubled MTI-V production. Well, why don't I just let you read his reply?
What do I see coming for 2015? I can tell you that the entire staff at MTI needs to be eating their "Wheaties." We have the Miami International Boat Show coming up, and a very strong backlog of orders in both the catamaran and MTI-V models. We have a lot of customers who want to be ready with their new MTIs when the weather starts improving.
The trend in 2014 was the larger catamarans—and that trend will continue. We have some very serious cats in production now. Those sales have brought us some very nice trade-in boats, and these boats have been great ways for some new faces to join the MTI family. It's hard to find a better place to buy a used MTI from than the factory.
Our MTI-V 42 has really caught on. We are now running two dedicated assembly crews in order to keep up with promised delivery dates. We've seen a growing number of inquiries from potential buyers that have had "small" yachts—40- to 65-foot sport cruiser and sport fish boats—and now have the desire for a boat with more performance and user friendliness. I tend not to present the MTI-V 42 as a "center console," but more as a sport utility, which appears to be what buyers are after. Very few would consider themselves fishermen. Our boat is still a performance boat, let there be no question. Performance, luxury, amenities and reliability—all tailored to the specific buyer's taste.
We're also excited to see how boat racing comes together for 2015. We have had more inquiries for both new and used race boats, which tells me that people are becoming more interested in getting involved. Our Class 1 efforts with Team Abu Dhabi have been very exciting this year and we expect Class 1 to be even more popular in 2015 with more boats and more fans.
Looking back at 2014, Peter Hledin, the founder and owner of legendary catamaran builder Douglas Marine/Skater Powerboats in Douglas, Mich., describes the year as "rewarding." Yet delighted as he was with the company's orders for larger models this year, he was even more satisfied with the upturn in sales of entry-level—at least for Skater—30- and 32-foot outboard and stern drive catamarans. Says Hledin on the smaller-boat buyers on which he started and initially built Skater's remarkable following, "Those guys are always so grateful when they get one." (Our question, of course: Who wouldn't be?)
Ron Szolack, Peter Hledin and Hledin's son, Michael, share a laugh at Saturday's lunch stop—Pepper Joe's in St. Clair, Mich., during Flight Club Skaterfest earlier this year. Photo courtesy Yvonne Aleman
What do you see happening in the custom high-performance catamaran market next year?
(Laughs) If I could tell you what was going to happen in 2015 I would be playing the stock market. I don't know. I know that it doesn't take much to screw up the industry. Even for people who have money, it depends on how people are feeling about the economy and who's in office. I know that in 2012 things picked up in the summer and then got quiet after the elections. But who knows? I wish I could predict it.
So far we have good orders for the upcoming year. We have lots of projects to finish, from small detail projects to boats like Pure Platinum. I'll be interested to see how it runs with the new (Goodwin Competition) engines. I'm interested to see how those engines do. We do have a lot of new product coming out next year like the 432, which is basically a 388 on steriods (read the story). We also have a new 31-1/2 cat primarily designed for I/Os. Both of those models are available to order now.
When it comes to Missouri's Lake of the Ozarks, the real boating season only lasts so long—many locals still get out during the winter, but it's by no means busy. That said, if luck is on the community's side, the season starts Memorial Day weekend and lasts through much of September. But if you're Ed Champion of Lake Ozarks Marine, the season never stops.
Ed Champion of Lake Ozarks Marine said it is a definite advantage dealing with the freshwater boats from Missouri's Lake of the Ozarks.
Because, whether he's selling a boat or taking one in on trade, hauling a boat to a customer in another state or visiting the Sunsation Powerboats shop in Michigan, things have been busy for Champion and the Osage Beach, Mo., company, which sells a variety of used boats and is the lake's source for new Sunsation and Ultra Custom Boats models. With a good feel for the new and pre-owned boat market, we asked Champion to participate in this series.
What do you see happening in the performance boat market in the next year?
The used boat market is still strong and carrying well into winter—in fact, we've been pleased with the response even with the holidays upon us. The luxury of having thousands of freshwater boats at our fingertips definitely gives us an advantage.
The lenders appear to be with us, too, as our local resources can lend back to 1997 with approved credit and money down. New performance boat sales have still been slow in our area. The Sunsation open bow and center consoles seem to be the boats getting the most action right now of the three lines we carry (Ultra and Chief Powerboats). We have been working with customers, some of which have already gone to see Joe and Wayne Schaldenbrand (the brothers who own Sunsation), to get them to the factory to see how the boats are built. New in-stock boats are hard because most of our buyers want specific options, so for that reason we're expecting to move mainly custom-order boats.
We hope to have a customer meet-and-greet in January in Florida with Chief Powerboats to debut the new 42-footer that Bobby Saccenti, the legendary offshore racing world and national champion, and TNT Custom Marine just got ready for the water.
Overall, we are excited to see what 2015 brings and look forward to it. I'd be remiss not to mention the great loss of life in 2014 by many well-known individuals in the powerboat world. That's a trend we don't want to see continue.
To say this year has been roller-coaster ride for veteran offshore racing throttleman Steve Curtis is an understatement. As 2013 closed, Curtis began collaborating with Outerlimits Offshore Powerboats founder Mike Fiore on the Bristol, R.I., boat company's line of custom high-performance catamarans. In late August, he set a 244-mph speed record with his racing partner Sheikh Hassan bin Jabor Al-Thani in Al Adaa'am 96, a 50-foot turbine-powered Mystic Powerboats catamaran during Central Missouri's Lake of the Ozarks Shootout. A few days later, he lost his friend Fiore, who died in the hospital while being treated for injuries sustained in a crash during the same event. A couple of months later, the news that Curtis was involved in forming the new Offshore Powerboat Grand Prix series was enough to get him and the entire Spirit of Qatar team banned by Super Boat International from its Offshore World Championships in Key West, Fla. Next up for Curtis, the interim president of OPGP: The Qatar Cup in February.
What do you see happening in offshore racing in 2015?
I think it's going to be stellar year for it. We purposely waited for the SBI series to come out with its schedule so we wouldn't conflict with it. They're putting on a Fourth of July race and so is OPGP—that's when the Sarasota (Fla.) race is so we couldn't help it—but that's the only conflict. We don't intend to conflict with any other racing series' dates in any way. I think having more races for racers to choose from opens up the sport. It's great news that we have the CBS sports deal—it's going to be terrific for powerboat racing in general. We're going to be able to bring over some big teams from Europe. That's going to be a great thing. It's all positive stuff.
Curtis (second from right) said he is looking forward to "pushing the levers forward" with his team next year.
By the end of the year, we intend to release our schedule and the rules we will be running. Of course, the APBA (American Power Boat Association) needs to put their stamp of approval on the rules, but hopefully we'll have both announcements by the end of the year. As for the Qatar Cup, to be honest we knew the first year was going to be a tough year. But with the teams from America, New Zealand, Australia and Turkey it looks like we're going to have just over 50 boats. We may be adding two more U.S. teams—Peppers and a new Super Cat Light from Jay Muller—if we can arrange the shipping dates. But for a first year of an event like this, it looks great. We have a three-year agreement with (shipping logistics company) GAC Pindar, and we already have teams that want to come for the Qatar Cup in 2016. The first year is a stepping-stone year. And the UIM (Union Internationale Motonautique) people are really excited about it.
I am looking forward to getting back into a raceboat with Sheikh Hassan and doing what I love, pushing the levers forward. We're slowly putting together a board for OPGP so I can step down (as interim president)—there are going to be some really interesting people on that board—and Jason Miller is doing a good job and getting a grip on running a circuit. And hopefully, early in the year, Sheikh Hassan and I will be going for the world propeller-driven speed record on the Salton Sea. We are talking to the ABPA about that. It could be a big part of my focus in the first part of the year, and we're all pretty excited about it.
A serious household name in the automotive racing world, Goodwin Competition of Omro, Wis., has expanded its recognition among performance boat buyers and builders in a big way this year with its upcoming delivery of two custom 1,800-plus-hp supercharged EFI engines for the next-generation Pure Platinum Skater 388 catamaran. Kept tightly under wraps, the eagerly anticipated 38-foot cat will be unveiled at the 2015 Miami International Boat Show in February.
Said Todd Goodwin on his latest 1,800-plus-hp engine (shown here at the 2014 PRI Trade Show earlier this month): "There's not one part on it from any other engine." Photo courtesy Whipple Superchargers
But the fact is Goodwin Competition has been custom building innovative high-performance engines for the marine world for the past "15 to 20 years," according to Todd Goodwin, the 50-year-old principal of the company. Goodwin's marine engines have typically ranged from naturally aspirated 650-hp models to supercharged 1,200-hp beasts, but the current all-aluminum engines he's developed for the Pure Platinum project produce more than 1,800 hp "on pump gas," he said. And there's more to come.
What can the high-performance marine engine world expect to see from Goodwin Competition in 2015?
Right now, we're working on a 2,000-hp version of the engines we built (for Pure Platinum). It's our own engine, something we developed completely in house for marine. It's a purpose-built engine—we designed it 100 percent, and there's not one part on it from any other engine. Everything has been crafted and machined out of billet aluminum, even the engine block—it's not a casting. It's an open-cooled engine—we have two in the field in an Outerlimits—and we have been working on a proprietary coating (for protection in the marine environment). We have painstakingly manufactured the water-jacketed cooling system and we spent a lot of time developing our valvetrain system. This is not just a modern engine designed to address issues of durability, reliability and performance. It's artistry. We designed it to address the issues everything else in the world has. We have developed this engine to "go where no one else has gone before."
Right now, we can produce 10 to 12 a year, but we've added more CNC equipment. We will develop lower power packages from it. We do development for every form of motorsports. All we do is the exotic stuff. That's all we do.
Just a couple of weeks ago in Panama City, Fla., Tres Martin, the founder of the Performance Boat School that bears has name, taught powerboat driving techniques to one of the more highly educated, so to speak, groups to come through his classroom. Sent to Martin by Mercury Marine, the student body consisted of 15 engineers from various departments in the company. Now, they join the ranks of Performance Boat School graduates from the marine industry including Erik Christiansen and Mike Griffiths of Mercury Racing, as well as another group of Mercury Marine engineers that went through Martin's program earlier this year.
Martin enjoyed the time he spent with the Mercury group, but now he's looking forward to a couple of weeks of downtime. So for the rest the year, school is out for the world's best-known powerboat driving instructor.
Tres Martin: "Sometimes, what it takes to get people into class is a close call."
What do you see happening on the safety side of the go-fast powerboat world next year?
I think the Mike Fiore accident this year probably opened the eyes of a few people within the industry. I think we're going to see more of the manufacturers becoming more safety oriented, like the guys at Octane Marine (read the story). Dave (Hemmingson) at DCB told me at Monster Bash in November that they are going to be putting their guys through the course next year. I think if buyers see manufacturers putting their employees through a safety course, they may see it as worthwhile themselves. But you are still going to have all those people who already think they know how to drive anything. Sometimes, what it takes to get people into class is a close call.
One of the things I really see beginning to happen is boat manufacturers not necessarily selling boats with the biggest power available. I strongly encourage that. I think it just begins to worry them. For me, it would be hard to sleep at night knowing there is a boat that runs maybe faster than it should with an owner who might go out there one day and make a mistake. I even know of some guys who recently bought boats, and when they looked at the insurance costs with 'the biggest power' they saw it was more than they wanted to deal with and went with less. So they pulled back on engines in favor of a more reasonable premium. At the end of the day, they realized how fast they'd still be going really, and decided it would be fast enough.
There are not many insurance companies that will cover something that will run over the 150-mph mark. You tell your insurance person your boat runs 170 mph and he'll say, 'Huh? I can't insure you.' There are only a few specialties companies that will insure you at that point, and it's expensive. So kudos to the insurance companies for keeping things in check.
Just back from a pheasant hunting trip in South Dakota, Brett Anderson of BBlades Professional Propellers in Princeton, Wis., is running flat-out to get things done before the holidays. Anderson and his team are hard at work repairing propellers from this year's go-fast boating season. They need to get as much of that work completed before their January-February "Winter Special" floods them with substantially discounted propeller-tuning work.
Working long hours leading up to Christmas doesn't bother Anderson—in fact, he's fond of it. What's more, he's grateful for the work as this is the busiest November-December that BBlades has seen in the past three years.
What do you see happening in the high-performance propeller market next year?
We now have outboard engines from 350 to 560 hp, so making propellers for that market has become a focus for us. Everybody is building center consoles, so we are seeing growth in our custom outboard propeller business. We are taking stern drive propellers with their bigger diameters and blade surfaces and making them into outboard propellers. Actually, we've been doing this for more than a decade but with the larger outboards being more prevalent on the market it's becoming a lot more popular. Before, we used to do it for a guy with a 250-hp outboard on an 18-foot bass boat, take an existing Bravo propeller and turn it into an outboard propeller. Not knowing what new outboard propellers will come out in 2015, I think you're going to see a lot more stern drive props used in outboard applications.
Given the horsepower side of the market, we are sort of running out of pitch with existing propellers. So I think we might see more gear ratios offered than those we have now. If you create a casting for it there's nothing stopping anyone from creating, let's say, a 44-inch pitch propeller, but there comes a point with pitch where you start to see a lack of efficiency and other issues. You can have a 'paddlewheel effect' where you get too much stern lift. The propeller seeks the surface of the water and the back of the boat becomes loose. There's a loss of efficiency level in props with more than 40-inch pitch. If we can stay under that pitch and look at different gear ratios, that could be a solution.
The other things I think we are going to start seeing out there are manufacturers addressing the hydrodynamics and aerodynamics of boats with technological solutions. We've had some terrible losses this year. We've lost friends and respected members of our community, and it's just heartbreaking to see this stuff happen. We have so much power and we can go so fast, but I don't know that we have the hydrodynamics and aerodynamics to handle it if anything happens. I think there are some technology solutions, and it will be interesting to see who the players are in those kinds of projects and products.
For Florida Powerboat Club leader Stu Jones, December is the closest thing he has to a "down" month. Coming of the club's annual Key West Poker Run in November, Jones' next big event is the annual Miami Boat Show Poker, which happens late in the week following the event for which it takes its name. Sure, the FPC has its Winter Poker Run to Marathon happening in January, but that's a relatively small-scale event for the club.
With 11 events to organize and coordinate in 2015, Jones' schedule is a combination of planning meetings, travel, captains' meetings, coordinating video and photo shoots, handling the concerns of members and meetings. Think of him as a party planner for events that happen all over Florida, as well as in the Bahamas, and you won't be far off the mark. Still, at least for the first few weeks this month, he has some breathing room—and a little time to talk.
So what do you see happening for the poker run world next year?
I'm looking forward to 2015 with cautious optimism. If that sounds confusing, allow me to expand. Our recent Key West Poker Run just a month ago produced a strong roster of nearly 175 boats, and a lot of new blood for Florida Powerboat Club. Those numbers indicate that more people are getting back into boating and 'newbies' continue to be attracted to our sport. It's great for the recreational performance marine industry, great for Florida tourism and certainly great for FPC. That gets me revved up, I'm excited about 2015 and I love what I'm seeing from our performance industry manufacturing colleagues. Gas prices are substantially lower than they were a year ago, and all these things contribute to my tremendous optimism for the coming year.
Said Stu Jones (pictured here with his wife, Jackie): "If we want to see 2016 and many more great years ahead for our sport and for our performance marine industry, I think we just need to start slowing down in 2015." Photo courtesy/copyright Florida Powerboat Club
The 'cautious' reference comes with the territory. For a poker run organizer, larger poker run events require substantially more management in all areas, particularly safety. We can always do the obvious prevention measures and pour more money on the threat by using the safety fees to hire more patrol boats, more fire-rescue paramedics, and perhaps recruit volunteer boats to help manage poker run logistics. But that does not stop the threat, and there is only so much an organizer can do.
Sometimes I really feel powerless and frustrated when I see all the things that are 'wrong' with our sport. I won't go into great detail because we all know exactly what I'm talking about. But to simplify, a typical scene is a boatload of people with no life jackets on cruising at triple-digit speeds. I see it over and over again. The real threat in 2015—not just for FPC but for ALL poker runs across the nation and even for John Q Public who is out sharing the same waterways—is that far too much power is often put into the wrong hands.
Unfortunately, most poker run organizers aren't in a position to make the determination as to 'who' should or should not be driving a particular boat—unless we see something and react with a disqualification or stiff warning. All events are driven by participant fees, and we run our events like a business. So in most cases, simple math means 'more is better' and it remains a fact that everyone likes attending the big events.
Capping the entry numbers on events is not always an easy solution. Have you ever told a powerboat owner he can't go on the poker run because it's sold out? It's not a pleasant outcome. As a business owner, you do whatever you can, to find a room or a dock to get that crew in. Because if you don't they're coming anyway, and then they are more of a threat because they have no safety program, no captains' meeting, etc. On the safety front, we do whatever we can to secure detailed registration information, insurance declaration documents and conduct mandatory captains meetings. And for the most part, we have been successful in recruiting responsible, safety conscious owner operators who really want the same thing—a safe and memorable poker run.
If we want to see 2016 and many more great years ahead for our sport and for our performance marine industry, I think we just need to start slowing down in 2015. Now! Enjoy the scenery, take some photos, re-set the GoPro so the girls are all in the same shot, turn up the tunes, think about how great life is and how much fun the days ahead are going to be. You can't do any of the above at 150 mph.
I would like to see an accident-free, fatality-free 2015 poker run year across the nation, and I invite anyone and everyone to call me or email me with their best ideas on how we together might achieve that result. I hope the boat and engine builders read this and understand the message, because our sport is on borrowed time if we don't slow down in 2015.
Although it's technically the offseason at Lake of the Ozarks in Central Missouri, you'd never know it by talking with Brett Manire, one of the owners of Performance Boat Center in Osage Beach, Mo.
Just last week, Performance Boat Center secured a deal to merge with Nauti Marine, an experience-filled racing facility (read the story), and also signed on as title sponsor for the 2015 Lake Race (June 4-7) and the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout (Aug. 22-30)—two of the lake's largest boating events. Between new boat orders, pre-owned boat sales and service on all types of boats, Performance Boat Center, which is part of the impressive Redhead Yacht Club and the coming-this-summer Redheads Lakeside Grill, is cranking. We caught up Manire last week to see what he sees on the horizon.
What do you expect to see happen in the performance boat market in 2015?
First of all, thanks for taking the time to get caught up with everything that is happening here at Performance Boat Center. One of the largest developments around the dealership is the recent merger with Dave Scott's Nauti Marine. Continuing to grow customers' trust and build our service department is huge for us. We have an amazing group of talented technicians here at PBC, but we wanted to expand. With Nauti Marine's racing experience, rigging expertise and customer base, we will be able to combine our talents and offer the nation's "All Star" team of performance boat technicians. Along with the service department expansion, we are tripling the size of our paint shop with a new semi-truck-sized paint booth and adding staff to help with the workload.
On the sales side of things, we saw another large growth of revenue this year with a 60 percent increase for the 2014 season (not including December). We have seen the price—as well as the quality—of boats grow this year. We offer our brokerage service for any performance boats, but continue to see growth in new performance boat sales.
Gearing up for 2015, we have aligned ourselves with three boat builders. We were excited to announce the addition of Cigarette Racing this fall and have three new boats on order—a 38 Top Gun with Mercury Racing 565 engines, a 42X with Mercury's 1,100-hp turbocharged engines and a 41SD Center Console powered by twin 520 engines with Mercury's Axius joystick control. Statement Marine is finishing a couple of pre-sold 380 SUVs as well as building us a 380 SUV with triple Mercury Verado 350 engines that will be on display at the Miami International Boat Show in February. Along with those orders, we are working with Outerlimits Offshore Powerboats to continue building boats with them. We are working on configurations at the moment and are excited to be part of their bright future. We believe that the new V-bottom market is strong and well. All three brands we carry are busy building boats and have seen increases this season.
Construction of the restaurant—Redheads Lakeside Grill—is going strong. The crews were pouring concrete in the snow last Thursday. We hope to be open the restaurant, which will be approximately 10,000 square feet on two levels, by Memorial Day. Redheads Lakeside Grill will feature multiple bars, one of which will be a swim-up bar in one of two pools. The bar/restaurant will feature memorabilia and powerboat pictures and it will be located next to our showroom and service department. Customers can come in for lunch, swim in the pool, enjoy a drink and then walk around and look at the world's more luxurious performance boats...all in one location.
Finally, we're excited about becoming the title sponsor for the 2015 Lake Race (June 4-7) sanctioned by Offshore Powerboat Association. We'll also be the title sponsor of the 2015 Lake of the Ozarks Shootout (Aug. 26-30). We feel both events are great for our local economy and a great way to bring performance boaters together from across the nation. The Lake of the Ozarks has a lot to offer performance boaters and we want them to make our facility their home at the lake.
For Wayne and Joe Schaldenbrand, Jared Morris and the rest of the team behind Sunsation Offshore Powerboats in Algonac, Mich., it's been a very good year. In early 2014, they added another model—an aggressively priced 29-footer—to their Center Console Extreme (CCX) line. No sooner was that popular model finished than the Schaldenbrand brothers, led by Wayne, started work on adding a 32-footer to the CCX family. Throughout the year, the builder continued to produce existing models on the center console and sportboat sides. And Wayne Schaldenbrand, the oldest brother on the team, is even more bullish on the coming year.
Sunsation capped off a strong year with a display at the Florida Powerboat Club's Poker Run Village in Key West, Fla., during the club's annual trek to the nation's southernmost city.
What do you see happening in the performance boat market in 2015?
I think it's going up, up, up—I think it's going to be better than last year. The price of fuel is going down and people are buying boats. A lot of stuff out there has aged and people are ready and more secure, and ready to buy. The market feels good to me. It feels right.
I think the market has changed a little bit with sportboats and center consoles in that you have to build something that's a little bit more focused on entertainment on board. People like to go out there, sit in their boats and enjoy them much more.
Everything seems like it's going in the right direction. All of our dealers are either expanding their locations or putting up new ones. We are going to come up with something new in addition to the 32 CCX next year. Jared flew into town last week and we agreed that we're going to get started on something as soon as that project is over. We're just not going to say exactly what it's going to be yet.
With a new model unveiled in late 2014 and more new releases coming for next year's Miami International Boat Show in February, Cigarette Racing Team's Skip Braver is as excited about the prospects of 2015 as he's been about those of any year in recent history. While Braver, the owner and chief executive officer of the iconic Opa-Locka, Fla.-based custom sportboat and center console company doesn't give out unit sales specifics—a far from uncommon policy in the high-performance marine industry—he reports a "great response" and strong orders for the new 41' Stern Drive 1040, Cigarette's most recent creation. Taking its traditional holiday hiatus, the company is closed until January 5. Though work will resume that day, Cigarette will not open for tours until after the Miami show, as top secret preparations for the event will be happening inside the plant.
What's going on at Cigarette and what do you see happening for the coming year?
It's been going great—we have a lot going on. Things are busy and we've had a great response on the new boat. One of things were finding at Cigarette, with the way the industry has shaken out, is that more and more people putting down a $500,000, $600,000 deposit on a boat want to make sure the company is going to still be here in a few years. Our U.S. business is doing really well, but so is our international business. Europe is a little slow right now, but we're still going to be at the Dusseldorf Boat Show in Germany with a 50' Marauder and the AMG Electric Boat to support our dealer there.
Skip Braver: "We are going to have something new in addition to the 1040 boat in Miami, as well as something else derived from an existing model." Photo courtesy Cigarette Racing Team.
I think next year is going to be very strong for Cigarette. Right now, we are booked out until the end of May with orders. And that's not even with the orders that will come out of the Miami show. I have some concerns about the Miami show in 2016 (when the convention center closes for renovation), but I know the organizers are working really hard to get that set up and have all the confidence in the world they will step up and get that done. We are very excited about our new distribution policy, and we have some great new partners such as Performance Boat Center. We are looking forward to a very positive year. Our customer base has been great in supporting us.
We are going to have something new in addition to the 1040 boat in Miami, as well as something else derived from an existing model. We're really excited about it. Our AMG relationship has never been stronger, and we might even have a new partner in the show.
Editor's note: The Cigarette 41' Stern Drive 1040 luxury performance center console is featured in the November/December issue of Speed On The Water digital magazine, which can be downloaded now at no charge by clicking here.
In between the company's product seminar at its factory in Decatur, Ind., in mid-December and preparation for a couple of weeks of downtime at the shop for the holidays, Formula Boats President Scott Porter took some time to chat with speedonthewater.com for the Forecast 2015 series. An optimistic Porter, who was pleased with the turnout—and the unexpected sunny weather—of the company's two-day meeting with its selling and servicing dealers at the facility, was busy getting ready for the demanding boat show season.
Formula Boats President Scott Porter (left) and his brother Grant, the company's executive vice president (right), pose with Daniel Givens of Diversified Yacht Services after Givens completed the 2015 Formula Sales and Service Seminar earlier this month.
Porter, who has seen steady growth in the boat business over the last several years, believes the fall was a strong indicator of what's to come as Formula received more orders for the company's diverse lineup of boats than it had in recent years.
What are you expecting for the boat business over the next year?
All of us at Formula Boats are pleased with what we envision happening at the boat shows coming up next year. It's been very steady around here lately—in fact we're in the process of hiring more people to keep up with everything. I'm looking forward to seeing what the boat show season brings—it's such an important time for us to connect with people. One of the interesting things is trying to plan what the dealers will have and what some of our more unique pieces will be that we take to the shows. The fall was busy enough that we'll be doing some scrambling to make sure we have some boats to display because some of the boats we had lined up to go to the winter shows already sold. It's kind of a good/bad situation, but we call it mostly good. It's a good challenge to have.
At the major shows, like the Miami International Boat Show, we'll have some of our FAS3Tech models on display. Many of those customers have turned to our FX line, which imports a lot of the interior and exterior features from the FAS3Tech lineup. I'm glad we decided to create the FX line because there are people who grew up with performance boats but have seen their boating style shift toward the family who can still get that sense and feel with the FX models that range from 29 to 40 feet. Some of the FX boats with the larger engines get along pretty good still. The technology is exciting when you look at what Mercury Marine and Ilmor Marine have available now.
We'll have one our 400 FX models with Mercury Racing 520 engines and Bravos Three drives in the water at the Miami show. We'll also have a 370 FX on display inside with Mercury power. We're actually increasing our display to showcase a few more boats than before.
Another thing I think is pretty exciting right now—I guess if you're in the domestic oil business you'd be a little nervous—but for those of us who use fuel, whether it's boating or in our vehicles, I think what's happening to the price of gas is really exciting. I think there will be some people getting to use their boats a bit more. Not that they couldn't before, but obviously it was pretty expensive paying five dollars at the pump. So it will be interesting to see how much this translates at the marinas this summer. I think it will have people more excited about doing their boating this year. I don't think this will go on for a long time, but I guess we'll enjoy it while we can.
As are many of the manufacturers in the performance boat business, Joe LoGiudice and the crew at Hustler Powerboats in Calverton, N.Y., are looking forward to the 2015 Miami International Boat Show, which opens in less than seven weeks. Come mid-February, LoGiudice, who has owned Hustler since 1997, is bringing the company's display inside the Miami Beach Convention Center in a "good traffic area," he said.
You can catch Joe LoGiudice and the Hustler/Checkmate team inside the Miami Beach Convention Center at the boat show in February.
And like this year's show, LoGiudice and his team will be displaying models from Hustler and Checkmate Powerboats, the Bucyrus, Ohio, company LoGiudice's Global Marine Power purchased in 2013. LoGiudice isn't ready to let the cat out of the bag in regard to which boats will be at the show as well as a model reintroduction Hustler has planned for 2015 (stay tuned for the news), but in the meantime he said the production process at Checkmate is coming along nicely. In fact, he said Checkmate's 24-footer is now being constructed using a one-piece mold for the hull and cockpit, which makes the structure of the boat stronger.
With a hand in both the larger and smaller powerboats we asked LoGiudice what he envisions for the boat business in 2015, and here's what he had to say.
We plan on making some improvements in regard to both companies over the next year. We're really embracing more of the automotive technology as far as interiors, fasteners, and such. As custom powerboat builders, we need to embrace the efficiency and understanding of how things are made—there's a lot of good technology out there.
We'll see what happens with the price of gas, but for now that's a positive thing. We hope to take some of our small boat customers and get them into larger offshore boats. We're definitely going to stay focused on high-performance boats at Hustler as opposed to shifting our focus to center consoles like many of the companies out there. We're in the high-performance business and we're going to stay there. It seems like every time I talk with someone who bought one of those three- or four-engine boats, they remind me how much gas they guzzle and how much they miss their go-fast boat.
In his second full year as president of Mercury Racing, Erik Christiansen had one heck of a roller-coaster year. From traveling to the Middle East and around the United States testing, promoting and enjoying the engines the Fond du Lac, Wis., company produces to the loss of Outerlimits Offshore Powerboats founder Mike Fiore—someone he had grown to know well over the years and was there in April to witness Fiore's V-bottom set a 180-mph kilo record (read the story)—from a business perspective, 2014 is a year Christiansen recognized as positive overall.
Mercury Racing President Erik Christiansen expects 2015 to be even busier and more productive than 2014.
As you'll read below, Christiansen, who was at his desk today making plans for the New Year, is optimistic about his third year at the helm of Mercury Racing.
What appears most exciting to you about the performance boat market in 2015?
Obviously we'll have some big announcements for the Miami International Boat Show that we're very excited about. Not only will Mercury have some new product enhancements to showcase, I think there will be a lot of product introductions in this industry over the next year. I expect to see even more progress in the high-performance market in 2015. We've been encouraged by the number of 520 engines being sold in the market, too. We're starting to see more of that and hope it's a trend.
I think it will be interesting to see what happens on the racing front—there are a lot of things going on. The XCAT series overseas is doing really well and there's some cool stuff happening stateside. We're starting to see more excitement in this segment than we've seen in some time and are happy to be ambassadors for the sport, so to speak. I'm excited about the current and new race series, and the possibility of more teams and more races. That XCAT class is really something. As you know, the Dubai-based Victory Team has been testing a derivative of the Verado engine for a while and they ran the engines—in an exhibition form since they aren't homologated for racing yet—and finished first in the final race of the year (read the story).
Racing aside, the interest in our products from people internationally is exciting. People are very passionate about performance boats outside the U.S. It's not as big of a market as it is in this country, of course, but the international crowd is just as passionate.
Finally, just talking with many of the boat companies out there, everybody has a lot of aggressive plans for 2015. It's really exciting to me when boat builders talk about new product and how stoked they are about new launches. It's nice to hear, and it's nice to be a part of it.
From the Barrett Jackson auction in Scottsdale, Ariz., in mid-January and the Miami Boat Show Poker Run at the end of February to the company's regatta on Arizona's Lake Havasu in late September and the Monster Bash Poker Run on the same lake in November, Dave Hemmingson and the team at DCB Performance Boats had a very long and busy year in 2014. And, according to Hemmingson, 2015 just might be even busier.
DCB delivered this stunning M35 Widebody with Mercury Racing 1350s to a customer in June. Photo courtesy DCB Performance Boats
What are your expectations for DCB and the performance boat market in 2015?
This was a very stellar year for DCB and we're expecting 2015 to be as good as, if not better than, 2014. The forecast for 2015 looks bright as we're blessed with a substantial amount of back orders and we've got some really cool boats expected to hit the water throughout the year. We're probably most excited about the new M41 we're building for the factory to do another poker run tour. We're expecting to have the 41-footer, which will be powered by Mercury Racing 1350s and have a really cool combination of colors, finished by mid-year and we'll provide some sneak peeks as we get farther along. We'll also have the M35 Widebody being painted by Mark Morris at Visual Imagination—we're looking forward to doing more stuff with Mark and his crew.
Of course we also have Jeff Johnston on the sales and marketing side of things now (read the story). We're super excited about him being part of the team and look forward to his contributions this year. We're also excited about the great events coming up throughout the year. We're going to the Barrett Jackson auction in Scottsdale again in a couple of weeks—we had a good time out there last year and met a lot of neat people. The Desert Storm Poker Run should be bigger and better this year, too. Then we've got a whole list of fun events from the DCB Regatta to the Lake Powell Challenge to the Big Cat Poker Run that we're planning to attend with many of members of the DCB family.
Overall, we made a lot of new friends in 2014 and expect to do the same in 2015. Here's to safe and prosperous New Year!